Transcript for "Alma Elizabeth Mineer Felt, reminiscences," 2-4.
In 1861, father and mother sold our lovely home and came to Utah. Mother put some bedding—quilts, blankets, and sheets—in a big sheet and tied the four corners into a knot. We also had a wooden chest, bound with metal bands to stand rough handling, and with a lock. This was about three feet high, three feet wide and four or five feet long. In this Mother put our clothing, and some dishes, knives, forks, spoons, frying pan, one cooking kettle—the things that she thought we would need on our journey across the plains. . . . My sister and her husband, who was a butcher, had left Sweden the previous year, and had stopped in Omaha to await our coming. How happy we were to see them! They had rented a house in Omaha, and we stayed with them and rested a little while until the teams came from Salt Lake City for us. Then my sister and her husband and our family all traveled together across the plains.
The train which came to get us was made up of independent teams, under the direction of Captain Murdock. We started on our long journey from Omaha with eighty wagons in our train. There were three ox teams pulling each covered wagon. There were three families using our wagon, so you see it was loaded to the bows with their equipment, baggage and clothing, and it was necessary for us all to walk all the way—men, women and children. We made the trip from Omaha through the Perpetual Migrating Fund, and my brother after ward paid our expenses to this fund.
One woman with our wagon had a baby very sick with summer complaint, and she had to ride with the baby all the way. The baby died one day, and they dug a little grave at night by our wagon, put a sheet around her thin little body and laid her in the grave. We did not have any box to put her in, and had to bury her that way. When the dirt was put on her, the mother just cried as though her heart would break. We all cried because we could never see that grave again.
We used to set out to walk, getting a start in the morning after breakfast about half an hour before the wagons started, in order to avoid the heavy clouds of dust. We all walked in a body together for safety. One woman in our party…a woman named Hustmark, who came from the same town as we did, started out one day ahead of the rest…she said that she wasn't afraid of the Indians. But they stole her away. It was said they put her in a saddle and rode off with her. They were crazy about white people. She was never heard of again. Whether she lived with the Indians I do not know. How they would treat her would depend on what tribe it was. Some tribes might have been kind to her if she stayed with them.
I had to walk all the way across the plains because our wagons were loaded to the bows. Our kettles and utensils hung from the back of the wagons. After walking all day we had our suppers, which consisted of hard bread, a little bacon, and a little coffee. When the tired oxen had eaten their suppers we put all our wagons in one round ring, then we put the oxen inside this ring so the Indians would not steal them.
One night we traveled all night long. The Indians were so bad they had stolen a woman from a train ahead of us, so we walked all through the night to escape them and get past their camps. The journey across the plains was very hard for my father and mother. This night it was very difficult for my father to keep up with the wagon train. He kept going slower and slower, because of his rheumatism. I kept hold of his hand and tried to help him as much as I could. Finally he could not keep up with the train any longer, and he told me to keep hold of the back of the last wagon and continue on, and he would catch up with us later when we stopped to camp. He was finally left behind. Soldiers were camping in the hills, and had a big bonfire. Father mistook this for our camp and went in that direction. When he got there he was surprised to see so many soldiers. The Gentiles were very hostile against the Mormons and he did not know how they would accept him. They asked him what he could do, and he said he could play the fiddle, so they had him play all night long. In the morning one of the men brought him to our camp just as we started out to travel on. Mother had cried all night, because she was afraid the Indians had taken him and she would never see him again. We all thanked our Father in Heaven that he was with us again, for the train would have had to start on without him—it was too dangerous to wait for anyone.
Our shoes wore out on the way, and we continued bare-foot. Our clothes were ragged and in ribbons. We looked like Indians as we came to the end of our journey. We stopped occasionally at the banks of streams and washed up…bathed and washed and dried our clothes. The entire trip was hot, dry and dusty, with the terrific sun beating on our heads. The women wore sunbonnets and did the best they could, but Mother often told me how she suffered with the heat. We could travel only ten or twelve miles a day.
We used to sleep at night on the ground on the outside of the circle of wagons. For a long way we followed the Platte River, crossing and recrossing it. This was a wide, shallow river, winding like a snake. When the river was very shallow, the oxen pulled the wagons across and we rode. When it was deeper, the oxen swam the stream, and the wagons were floated over by placing logs under them, the poles acting as an improvised raft. When we came to the Green River, we had to cross on a ferry. This is the only ferry crossing I remember. The ferry was pulled from one side of the river to the other by means of a heavy rope stretched from one bank to the other. The wagons were pulled onto the platform and oxen and wagons were slowly ferried across. When going through the Platte I can remember the heads of the oxen bobbing in the water.
After three and one-half months walking over a hot desert, up the rugged hills and down the hills and canyons, we finally came out of Emigration Canyon, dirty and ragged. When I saw my mother looking over this valley with the tears streaming down her pale cheeks, she made this remark, "Is this Zion, and are we at an end of this long, weary journey?"
Of course to me, as a child, this had been a delightful pleasure jaunt, and I remember it only as fun. We children would run along as happy as could be. My older sisters used to make rag dolls as they walked along, for us little children to play with.
But to my mother this long hot journey, with all of us ragged and footsore at the end, and the arrival in the valley of desert and sagebrush, must have been a heart-breaking contrast to the beautiful home she had left in Sweden.